All FOKO working together as a community

After a year of promoting Citizen Media all around the island alone, activist coordinator Stéphane hard work was celebrated during E-bit 12 event at Palais des Sports et de la Culture at Mahamasina. Foko team had only 12 days to gather the most bloggers possible to handle 15000 visitors from 6 to 17 and despite the logistical challenges, E-bit 12 was a huge success in many levels.

100 Foko ! 1 year anniversary ! We ROCKED E-bit ! by you.

All Foko

Bloggers managing workshops on their own

Diana, Lomelle, Koloina and Rondro took the initiative to have monthly Foko meeting on their own and are planning to teach blogging to new members. During October 17th Ebit 12 when the coordinators were submerged, all the bloggers took charge of the initiation sessions by using improvisations. ESSVA students, who were the newest additions at Foko, helped open dizains of e-mail accounts and blogs (list will be published soon) despite the slow connexion and them been quickly outnumbered by the attendees.

Michel and Solofo, the ESSVA students sharing, teaching, knowing what they do

Bloggers sharing their knowledge and showcasing their skills

Learning social activism from Diana during a Barcamp, Editing videos and pictures from Solofo and David at Malagasy biggest ICT event; Improving English discussing with ICE each saturday; Want to know more on 3D modelling? check Nhani's blog; Meggha is planning to blog on entrepreneurship; Moma and Patrick will join forces to talk more about their passion : Tourism in Madagascar;…;From the blogging perspective, the members seem to masterize any topic and when it comes to sharingthey never refuse even on public radio shows!

Koloina during MBS radio pre-Ebit 12 show

Bloggers texting, posting comments, calling bloggers

Antsirabe, Majunga, Antananarivo and Tamatave are very well represented at Foko. After Barcamp and the very fun lunch at Oktoberfest in Mahamasina (Antananarivo's stadium and the same site as the Palais des Sports et de la Culture) they had on the same day, they all became close friends and were very happy to meet again 2 weeks later at the same spot but this time they took the stage. Stéphane, who is usually coordinating communication when not travelling or training bloggers, just need to contact few bloggers who will pass the news by text messaging to each others. Joan who was officially the “spammer” at Foko Blogs is replaced by Tahina, Patrick, Lomelle, Ariniaina

Please post comments on their latest updates :

Bisikilety Minday Raha by Zouboon (in Malagasy)

Madagascar : Politique et Média by RaslMetal (in French)

Go for learning and practicing English by Ariniaina

Foko Blog Club first Self-Evaluation

After 10 months of planting blogs, Foko-Madagascar first project met successes in different ways, three languages and in a very short period of time. We launched this outreach with well defined goals, supposedly, we had all figured out from the first workshop (we even used to make GANTT charts) to the launch of our next project (we are dreaming about building a huge cybercafé painted in green) but of course we expected to meet deceptions, make millions mistakes and start fights over a key-decision to take….all this to spice things up. Most of the updates on the Rising Voices blog are emphasizing on the results but the more “good news” we published, the harder our team had to work backstage and improvise.

Foko, a pioneer for Citizen Media in Madagascar

With a School of Journalism as part of our Blog Club and more and more excellent stories on topics rarely published on newspapers, you would think that Foko has touched the heart of Malagasy readers (internet and newspapers). But journalism is still a very well-guarded citadel in Madagascar and many are still asking our coordinators and members about their “motivations” in giving away for (free) such important informations and hard work. Cyclone Yvan coverage and Baby Kamba project were two very interesting examples of journalists and webmasters relaying without aknowledging Avylavitra , Diana nor Foko's in general interventions. Videos of Ikopa river filmed with his own mini-camera and put on Youtube were found on a popular Malagasy website, the webmaster was raising funds for the victims but “forgot” to give credits to Avylavitra. After Baby Kamba's second operation, after the stressing hours, Diana was convocked at a press conference. This very talented young journalist and activist had the chance to be interviewed on her participation and how her blogging was decisive for Baby Kamba's future. But her blog's adress was never mentioned ….

  • Our first move was to integrate more journalists on our side and each time we don't hesitate to share our experiences and show them the values of Citizen Media and what it could bring to developing countries and Madagascar particularly. Randy Donné is well-known for his articles on Lexpress de Madagascar and today on Les Nouvelles and was one of Diana's supporters. He is now teaming with Foko to train his students at ICM Antsirabe where he is teaching journalism classes to Citizen media and open new blogs from the Vakinankaratra region. The new workshops will integrate tutorials on licencing (Creative Commons), commenting and social networking.

Foko, showing a new approach to ICT in Madagascar

3 out of 5 members have very basic knowledges of computing and internet but all of them have their personal cellphones and are experts at the Art of phone texting. Their first motivation to join the FBC was to learn more from the new technology and to develop skills with new media (videos and poscasts are total hits). FBC seems to be the link between the popular but limited use of internet for corresponding and chatting only and the dynamique but very selective community of developers. With a 3-step workshop format we tried to teach blogging, photography and video+podcast taking and encourage the bloggers to transfer their knowledge to their communities. But most of the time and not only because of the low connection and the costs, coordinators support are required. Video editing followed by the loading, more tutoring on WordPress and tips on online behavior are exchanged outside of the workshops hours. Hery and Stéphane noticed that the young bloggers needed more attention and “protection” from unwelcomed sollicitators on internet.

  • More “special” workshops are in preparation so our bloggers can answer to the community who is criticizing us on our “foolish” use of technology. We will produce breathtaking webdesign and professional video and audio contents like the ones Patricia and Nombana made to win international contests.

Foko, facing organisational and logistical challenges

It was after our expansion in Tamatave and soon after Lindsay's departure from Majunga that we realized we had to monitor than managing our network (we are very proud of this expression). Contacts were made with the bloggers twice a month with alternative ways to communicate (Skype, phone calls, chats). We had the opportunity to get guest bloggers and already trained members , Karenichia and her friends in Tananarive for example, to take over the workshop when the coordinators where travelling in the provinces. Coordinating and scheduling these meetings are still very difficult with most of the members still studying and having a part-time job during their free-time. The blog carnival participation for August 31st has a question mark on our calendar since we didn't hear from the members yet but we never know… In addition, we still have to solve our biggest problems of connectivity and finding cheaper and efficient ways to transfer pictures and videos online. Negociations are in progress with the cybercafés, sponsorship projects are in preparation and ideas of starting our own cybercafé.

But Foko team have came to the realizations that our decisions concern more the members than the organization itself and it has become an urgence to include them in the process and even giving them more responsabilities. All of them expressed their support to Foko in very touching ways and we have complete trust in them as they are the ones who are becoming the leaders of their communities : UN Club groups are the head students of their high-schools already used to activism and English Club in Tamatave students are involved in social activities.  And finally our choice to pursue our expansion to other regions  has been collectivelly discussed and will integrate the lessons we've learned from the previous workshops : passion, autonomy and knowledge transfer.

Foko bloggers contribute to the Madagascar English Journal

Since October 2007, when we started the Foko Blog Club project, our constant preoccupation was to find a sustainable way to finance our workshops. The Rising Voices grant came at the right moment (after our 3rd workshop) and helped us extend our activities in the regions where there are less coverage from the media. We bought digital cameras and distributed it right away to the groups to publish videos, podcasts and furnish their blogs with pictures.Our mini-blogging contest back in April 2008 proved that competition may be very motivational. Even if Karenichia was the one who won the digital camera, we greeted all of the participants free hours of connexion to help them update their blog outside the workshops. Of course their heavy schedule (since most of the members are students at universities) and, again, the high costs at cybercafes were the obstacles for them to blog regularly.

Mrs Annelie Rozenboom the offices of the Mada English Journal

The offer from Mrs Annellie Rozenboom to publish our bloggers’ articles and instauring a special FOKO column brought intensive and very creative writing from every corner of the island. The Madagascar English Journal is a weekly publication distributed to high-schools to promote the use of English (which is now Madagascar's 3rd official language with French and Malagasy). They quickly recognized the versatily of the likes of Rondro or Ledheada (Lists of selected articles here) and we are now frequently asked to submit more on culture and society in exchange of a small stipend converted in connexion hours (again to keep the focus on online presence). This interest in their work from the great staff at Mada Journal (a publication sponsored by Exxon Mobile and supported by the US embassy*), their advices to help write in a more journalistic  way (integrate few lines of interviews, illustrate with pictures,…)  and the opportunity to be read by thousands were the reasons behind these last weeks’ flow of blogging.

Already 7 bloggers contributed to the free  Journal distributed to Madagascar's high-schools

From all the FOKO Blogggers,

Thank you for reading our articles

We still have little problems commenting and responding to feedbacks which was very early noticed and oftenly criticized by the blogosphere. We are looking for ways to solve the problems of low speed connectivity and give more time to our bloggers to take part in the many debates their articles have initiated.

(*thanks to Mrs Rozenboom for the correction)

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FOKO in the heart (foko) of the Malagasy blogosphere

Last saturday Silo, who specializes in Malagasy Jazz, invited FOKO to make the Silo concert live on the Internet (a first for Malagasy audience !), but the Internet Service Provider did not fulfil its promises. The bloggers in town were present at the all 3 of the show locations all around Tamatave. It was also a great occasion to show our bloggers another fun way to practice their photography skills.

One of the three locations of the Silo Show : Stella Maris High-School

The other initiative was born when many bloggers lamented the poor Malagasy seen on the Internet, sparsed with liberties taken with the grammar etc…and so the “Aza ampijaliana ny tenintsika” (translated losely to “Do not mistreat our language!”) event was planned.
The event was held on Saturday, June 21 with Malagasy bloggers present, the usual FBC workshop taking place, and Patie representing FOKO and presenting what  FOKO Blog Clubs are about. The event was mostly fun, with games played online by the participants, but these were “serious” games about Malagasy proverbs, grammar, knowledge of Malagasy language in general.

Eddie Avila of Voces Bolivianas came for a visit and was offered some Malagasy lessons of the street language kind by Simp. Thanks for visiting, Eddie !

The next two weeks are going to be chock full of action for FOKO :
with Lova and Mialy present at the Global Voices Online Summit in Budapest, meeting up with some bloggers based in Paris and most of all there will be another FOKO Blog Club in Tamatave, thanks to Stephane, our field manager, travelling there !
Stay tuned…

by Mialy Andriamananjara

Bringing Malagasy forumists to blogging

Traditions of improvised oral speeches, also known as “kabary“, are deeply seated in Madagascar. The orator speaks alone in front of a crowd for a long period of time using metaphors and images.
When we, at FOKO, first thought of bringing forumists (such as the members of the Namana Serasera association) to the world of blogging, we were afraid they would feel alone and intimidated when introduced to this new media. Although Malagasy internet users are already used to sharing their opinions openly in forums, they always did so while comfortably sheltered by the online community. The idea of publishing ideas on one's own and taking a personal position on each post could have understandably scared some of them.

Our team did their best to make them feel at ease and showed them the basics of blogging in each session.
This month, Hery, a tutor at the Club since its first edition in October, took the initiative to introduce our work to teenagers of the Lycee Rabearivelo in Antananarivo during an Open Day on “Development and Human Rights” hosted by the local United Nations ICT Center. Those who were interested were then invited to join the workshops . Andry, a new member of FOKO, and incidentally a seasoned Internet professional, did a wonderful job at setting up the computers and sodas at the cyber coffee Teknet. “Pro” Malagasy bloggers also showed up to help out and at the same time other overseas based bloggers connected on the chatroom and offered support and tips.

It took only one hour for the first posts to start showing up. FOKO members had not even yet mentioned Citizen Journalism and the Rising Voices tutorials translated into French (and soon in Malagasy)that spontaneously all the blogs showed they had caught on the spirit of what it means to rise ones’ voices :

13 year-old FCandy very wisely posts about the latest news from her Ambohimanarina popular neighborhood .

Hard working Sasa tells us funny stories about people she meets everyday on her way home .

Stunningly Avylavitra showcases pictures of the impact of last week's FAME cyclone which did many destructions in town …

All the “Pro” were impressed by the Virtual Kabary posted in the new blogs and continuously wrote comments to sustain the flow.

Some issues were raised : Blanche07 explained how difficult it was to find Internet connection, Pakysse wanted to learn how to embed sounds and videos into posts, and 10-year-old Miora Stéphanie needed more time. Many more bloggers-to-be were waiting for their turn in the hallway.

Respectful of the Malagasy tradition, we used a collective approach to solve the problems. FOKO will now host 2 blogging sessions per month instead of one, more friends from the Namana Serasera group will attend the workshops, Tantely will teach the art of vidcasting, more tutors will volunteer to help out (and meet new friends) and the blogosphere will keep on commenting !!!

As FOKO says it in its slogan : It takes a village to rise an idea.